No fleas here.

Comments turned on now. Don’t know how they got turned off. But J.C. fixed it with his mad webmasterin’ skills. Thanks, John!

I feel like I start every day with a weather report, but this is Michigan, and weather is something you have to pay attention to — brutal in summer and winter, lovely in spring and fall, except for this spring, when it’s been brutal. I’m writing this on Sunday, when it might reach 50 degrees, but probably won’t, and even if it does, it won’t matter, because it’s raining hard, and blowing hard, and, well, balls.

But Friday was very fine, warm and muggy, and good thing, because we celebrated our anniversary that day. Eighteen years. We went to the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe in Grosse Pointe Farms. What a miracle that place is. The owner, Gretchen Valade, is a jazz fan and heiress, something you don’t always find in one body, particularly one who grew up in the Farms, where estate sales tend to carry lots of Perry Como records, but there you are. A while back she saved the Detroit Jazz Festival with a seven-figure gift. She started a record label to give promising artists a place to get started. And then she opened the Dirty Dog, in the heart of the snootiest of all the Pointes, and there’s not a single thing anyone can object to — two seatings a night, at 6 and 8:30, with live jazz starting at 30 minutes past sit-down and running through dessert. In other words, a perfect evening for an old married couple, because you don’t have to carry the conversation through the whole time. You hit the highlights during cocktails, then settle in to listen to music.

And it’s not a cafe at all, but fine dining. I had the seafood fricassee, Alan the salmon. ‘Twas all good.

Oh, and Ms. Valade’s family fortune? Her maiden name is Carhartt. Yep, the workingman’s first choice in insulated coveralls. I read an interview with her once where she said she always felt inadequate among the other Grosse Pointe debs, because their families were all in cars and other industry, and hers only made blue jeans.

Outside magazine ran a piece a few years ago, about an annual get-together in Alaska, where people who have had near-death experiences in extremely cold weather credit their survival to their Carhartts:

“One time,” says Doug Tweedie, Carhartt’s man in Alaska for the last 25 years, “there was this walrus attacked a guy tying his boat up to a dock somewhere in the Aleutian chain who said what saved him were the black extreme-heavy-duty Carhartts the walrus’s chompers couldn’t bite through.”

Last laughs, anyone?

So here I am on Sunday, doing about the only thing it’s fit to do — watching Kate get her hair colored, and trying out MY BRAND-NEW IPAD SQUEE. Writing via a Bluetooth keyboard I picked up with my Amazon bucks (thank you, all). So far I like it, although it’s odd to use a keyboard and still occasionally have to reach out and touch the screen. I’m going for a certain super-minimalism in my travel gear, and I think this fills the bill. I’ll keep you posted.

Because I have no idea how long the connection will stay this strong, a hop to the bloggage.

From the WashPost, a few ideas for spring cleaning, starting with that particular bane, the engagement ring:

The diamond industry, in its infinite marketing savvy, seems to have convinced young couples that the only way to declare a lifetime commitment is for a man to ruinously spend two or three months’ salary on the proper rock. Men write to me to say that they’re ready to get married, but given school debt and the depressed economy, they simply can’t afford a good enough ring, and they despair whether they’ll ever be able to pop the question. Here’s a secret that the folks at De Beers don’t want young people to know: All you need to do to become officially engaged is tell everyone, “We’re getting married!”

Word on that. I never wanted an engagement ring, and I’m still a plain gold band girl. I once worked with a silly young woman, the sort who read women’s magazines and fell head over heels for all this b.s., and she introduced me to a new concept that must not have caught on, but it did with her — engagement rings for men, too. They weren’t diamond solitaires, but some sort of manly-ish thing. I wonder if she’s still married.

Others from the list — smartphones, tipping and “The Simpsons.”

If you missed Moe’s contribution to last day’s comments, the shortest deposition ever. It reminds me of a motion filing we used to pass around in Columbus, by one of Larry Flynt’s lawyers. It was prompted by a cop’s testimony in a prostitution sting, which involved attempted oral sex in a hot tub. By the time the lawyer had established the depth of the hot tub, the officer’s position in it and the fact the woman was not wearing snorkel equipment, it was pretty much a done deal that the cop was not going to sit still for a physical exam, which is what the filing requested. Case dismissed.

Finally, the columnist for the other paper in Fort Wayne writes about my old zip code without once explaining where, exactly, it is. This might have been in a graphic in the print edition, but not online. Oopsie.

OK, better get out of here before the internet slows again. Upload to server in 3,2,1…

Posted at 9:07 am in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' |

56 responses to “No fleas here.”

  1. nancy said on May 16, 2011 at 10:39 am

    OK, I don’t know why comments got turned off for this post, but I see that none other than J.C. Burns himself was the last person to edit it, so I assume he turned them on. If you knew where J.C. was at the moment, you’d understand why he is the World’s Best Webmaster, and always will be.

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  2. brian stouder said on May 16, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Happy Anniversary! (Pam and I hit #18 in March)

    So now – the list referred to in this sentence:

    Others from the list — smartphones, tipping and “The Simpsons.”

    is from the spring cleaning article?

    edit: never mind. I clicked in there and saw that those items were indeed on the spring cleaning list.

    The “tipping” still throws me, though. How can that be “spring cleaned”?

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  3. James said on May 16, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Regarding John’s whereabouts…Oh… I know where he is.

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  4. Sue said on May 16, 2011 at 11:22 am

    30 years for us this month, and our kids, who don’t make a lot of money at all, pooled their limited resources and gave us a gift certificate for two nights here, bless their now even more poverty-stricken little hearts. What a couple of sweeties.

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  5. prospero said on May 16, 2011 at 11:24 am

    I bought an engagement ring with three $100 bills I found half buried in Georgia red clay outside the HoJos hotel the maintenance of which was one of my college jobs. The wife’s obnoxious sorority girl roomie at UGA had a boyfriend that worked for Zale’s and supposedly gave me a good price on the rock. God only knows. It was satisfyingly large. Then the tyrant asshole mafia wannabe dad of my beloved decided the eldest sister had to get married first. So we were put into the ignominious hell of a double wedding. All was not downhill from there, as it might have been, as to this day, we share being parents of a nearly perfect daughter, and flirt outrageously, and are very close friends much to that perfect kid’s chagrin. I don’t know. Seems harmless, and I have to admit, I felt like an adult for one of the few times in my life. We could have spent the money on pot and 151.

    My mom had an engagement ring from my dad. One day, gardening, the diamond escaped the setting and got lost. She was bereft, heartbroken. Daddy somehow found the gem two years later and had it reset. By accident, but I think he must have looked for it. But it was the own true stone. A great love story, my mom and dad. With or without the diamond. And don’t diamonds have a very bad name these days, anyway?

    Is a webmaster anything like a beastmaster? I really liked that nonsense. And weasels did not rip Dar’s flesh.

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  6. Pam said on May 16, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Bill and I had our 34th anniversary at the end of April. We forgot about it (just like mom and dad used to do). The only year I cared about their anniversary and not really telling us about it was their 50th. That was a shame. Another thing for the Carhartt woman to be proud of? The quality is superb! Being one who is eternally tired and disgusted with cheap Chinese crap, Carhartt can be counted on to be excellent quality. Bill has a Carhartt jacket for winter. They’re thick at the auctions I go to and even the women wear the pants and overalls during the winter outdoors sales. They’re quite stunning on the thin little bits of young women who arrive in Carhartts and sunglasses. But the serious Carhartt-ers are the men who wear them, dirty as hell, you know they’ve owned them a long time or perhaps they’re 2nd hand, being worn again. Or . . . they just don’t wash them, ever. Not when they just got them looking good.

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  7. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on May 16, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Peridot. $8 for the stone, and $150 for the handmade woven band of gold wire it’s set into, or at least that’s what it cost in 1985. (We’ve done this subject here recently, haven’t we?)

    Anyhow, the world is full of lovely precious (and semi-precious) stones: why limit yourself to carbon matrixes of dubious provenience?

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  8. Pam said on May 16, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Prospero — Our mother (Nancy’s and mine, I’m the sister) lost her diamond as well. It was accidentally dropped down the furnace heat vent in the kitchen. They called someone out to try to find it, but just couldn’t. Years later, when Air Conditioning was finally being installed in the house, the ring just magically dropped out of one of the air vents in the basement. But the ring was determined to run away again. It was stolen out of a dresser drawer at the assisted living place where the parents moved because of mom’s Parkinsons.

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  9. Jeff Borden said on May 16, 2011 at 11:51 am

    The target of Nancy’s ire some time back because, I think, he is from Michigan, Blackwater shitheel Erik Prince, was the subject of an enormous P.1 story in yesterday’s NYT. Prince is building an army of mercenaries at the behest of the United Arab Emirates, whose crown prince has given him a blank check to buy the men and materials needed to defend its interests. He’s trying to hide his involvement, apparently, but is clearly the guy in charge. It’s some spooky shit to read.

    I guess there’s nothing the Middle East needs more than a group of highly compensated cowboys playing army but without the generally accepted rules of engagement.

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  10. basset said on May 16, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Thirty this past April for Mrs. B. and myself. Her ring cost $160 as I remember, a little tiny diamond from a local jewelry store in Terre Haute.

    A few years ago I finally did a little better, saved up and got her a triple diamond, a main stone in the middle and two smaller ones on the sides; wanted to make it a nice surprise so I called her supervisor at work and got her a day off. They left her on the schedule so she had no idea it was coming.

    The next morning, she got up, I told her she didn’t have to, you’re on vacation today and by the way I have something for you.

    Went over pretty well, she got to sleep late.

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  11. coozledad said on May 16, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Jeff Borden: Well, after all it was Erik Prince’s elite force of goobercommandos who delivered palettes full of cash to Ahmed Chalabi and pulled guns on our own troops.
    Prince is a byproduct of the core principles of the previous administration, and ought to hang for them.

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  12. Jeff Borden said on May 16, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    You’re right, Cooz, but in the twisted world Prince inhabits, I’m certain he’s seen as a steely-eyed patriot. The story said his company is paying about $200,000 per year for its recruits, which obviously is, what, about eight or 10 times what a real soldier might make? It nauseates me to think of how we treat our servicemen and women. . .low pay, long deployments, often shabby housing in the U.S., uncertain medical treatments for physical and mental wounds. . .but Prince’s cowboys live a life of luxury when they aren’t slaughtering innocents, which they did with impunity in Iraq. The NYT story closes by noting that the leaders of the mercenary army loaded their minions into unmarked buses and drove them to the big city, where they were entertained by a small army of prostitutes.

    A real class act, our Mr. Prince.

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  13. prospero said on May 16, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Cooz. Thank you for actually pointing out the direct payments to Cheney. These were his buds, and these assholes were the entire idea behind PNAC. Bassett, you hopeless romantic. What an excellent story. Coosledad, here’s the deal: Funky Western. Civilization. People either are shitheels, or they aren’t. I hope they aren’t. I’m afraid they are.

    And how dashing a mercenary figure can you cut when you are the mordant heart of a revolting piece of barely living flesh that mongers war after six deferments. What a piece o’ shit. And if anybody doesn’t think profiteering was part of shock and awe, and fuck the civilians, let me sell you another invasion.

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  14. Jeff Borden said on May 16, 2011 at 12:57 pm


    Harry S Truman made his reputation as a dogged investigator of war profiteering during World War II, when ripping off the defense department was rightly viewed as a form of treason. The staggering amount of corruption and mis-, mal- and nonfeasance associated with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan scream for Congressional investigations, court-martials and criminal indictments, but we’ll never see them. And the muckety mucks at Halliburton, Blackwater nee Xe, will laugh all the way to the Swiss bank.

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  15. Jeff Borden said on May 16, 2011 at 12:57 pm


    Harry S Truman made his reputation as a dogged investigator of war profiteering during World War II, when ripping off the defense department was rightly viewed as a form of treason. The staggering amount of corruption and mis-, mal- and nonfeasance associated with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan scream for Congressional investigations, court-martials and criminal indictments, but we’ll never see them. And the muckety mucks at Halliburton, Blackwater nee Xe, will laugh all the way to the Swiss bank.

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  16. LAMary said on May 16, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Interesting that people need to be told they can be engaged without a ring. I’ve also heard couples say they don’t want to get married until they can afford it. They already live together, have kids, comingle money and property, but they can’t afford to get married. I guess they mean they can’t afford a big stupid wedding.

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  17. Julie Robinson said on May 16, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    Ms. Valade would be heartened to learn a bit of Lutheran theology, which posits that any work that contributes to the common good is honorable and not to be ashamed of or ranked in anyway. The custodian’s job is just as important as that of the company president. And these days, probably much more honest.

    This girl is not above a bit of sparkle despite the arguments against. So I loved your romantic gesture, Basset. Are you and yours staying dry these days?

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  18. basset said on May 16, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    The river’s been up a little recently, thanks for asking, but nowhere close to the house. There’s a NOAA river gauge under a highway bridge about a mile upstream which runs around 3 feet in normal conditions, 20’s flood stage, last week it topped out at 16.

    During the big flood, the highest actual reading was 34 but the water kept rising past the gauge and ran chest-deep over the bridge. The actual high was probably more like 42-43 feet.

    We still have a few trashed houses in the neighborhood, most everyone’s built back though. Big block party last Sat. night to celebrate that.

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  19. Deborah said on May 16, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Basset, great story.
    I know I’ve told my story about how while married to my ex he gave my engagement ring away to his brother to give to his intended, so I won’t repeat it in full. I’m not big on diamonds because of the politics, so my current engagement/wedding bands have a couple of tiny diamonds, and I wish they didn’t have any. They’re from Tiffany’s, designed by Elsa Perreti. Probably the least expensive rings you can buy there. I’d much rather spend money on travel, than jewelry. My husband knows this.
    Julie, the Lutherans got that theology right about one’s worth being not related to their employment position. And I read “Bossypants” yesterday. Very funny.

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  20. Bitter Scribe said on May 16, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    Matt Zoller Seitz should 1) take a pill, 2) not watch “The Simpsons” if he despises it so much and 3) stop using his middle name in his byline.

    It’s instructive that he cites Sideshow Bob stepping on rakes as an example of the show being funny. I remember how much the commenters on one of those alt boards ripped on how unfunny and drawn-out that sequence was when it aired.

    I liked the attitude of one of the show’s writers, who said on a recent documentary, “Those comment boards stopped being fresh and funny about 10 years ago.”

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  21. Jen said on May 16, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    I have an engagement ring with a big diamond, but it didn’t cost much. It’s a family heirloom – it was my grandmother’s ring and it was made by her father, who was a jeweler. It’s a good-sized diamond in a basket setting. The jeweler told us hardly anybody has rings in that kind of setting, but that the diamond is least likely to fall out of a basket setting. All we had to do with it was put a new band on it.

    I just have to roll my eyes at people who say they “can’t afford to get married.” My husband and I had a nice church wedding, but it ended up really being sort of a church blessing of our marriage sort of ceremony because we eloped six months before it – almost three years ago (our anniversary is on the 28th). The only people there were our parents, siblings, his nephew and my grandmother. It takes about $20 and an hour to get married at the courthouse, and you’re just as married as you would be if you did the whole to-do. The only regret I have is that we waited until November for the church wedding/reception part, but we had already reserved the church and the reception hall. It was nice, though – the pressure was off because we’d already been married for 6 months and we could just have a great time enjoying seeing our family and friends. We now tell anybody who is getting all bent out of shape and nervous over their wedding to just go down to the courthouse the week before and have the clerk marry them. It puts everything in perspective.

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  22. Dexter said on May 16, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    congratz on the eighteen, alan & nance.
    i have been a married man for most of the last 39 years, minus a few between marriages. some folks re-marry (each other, i mean) after a divorce.
    we all know that, so i didn’t think i was out of line when, sitting at a workingman’s bar catching up with a grade school pal i had not seen in decades, he was telling me his story . he said he was married, then divorced, then he married again. i asked him, “…to the same one?”
    he did a slow burn , a slower turn, stared me down and bellowed,
    “no! jeezuss kreist, not the same goddam ONE! You think I’m NUTS?!!”
    and so it is with me, married twice, this last one for 34 years, and definitely not to the same goddam one.

    I should seek out a jazz cafe once in a while. I love them. I used to stop in to Rusty’s, on Tedrow, in Toledo once in a while. It was THE place for jazz in T-town. All done now, and I hear Murphy’s is the Toledo jazz spot now. Hell, I don’t even know where it is. Damn these gasoline prices.

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  23. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on May 16, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Well, it’s $40 now in Ohio. Plus you have to get a registered clergyperson, judge, or mayor to sign it and send it back.

    But huzzah for Mary’s point at #19 & Jen’s at #21. Just married a couple at the Dillon Reservoir overlook on Saturday, and their total expense was mostly tied up in chair rental; their friends even took care of delivery & set-up & return. Her dress was maybe $200 & the chairs about the same. Flowers would have been a few hundred, but they had a friend of mom’s who did a lovely job with silks and floral tape and made it her gift to the couple. Men wore matching western shirts with black slacks (boots optional, but general), women in very re-wearable dresses.

    Sure looked high-toned to me, and I suspect their pictures won’t look much different than the $10K wedding another twenty years from now. He was going to drive off to the reception with her on a horse, and when he found out what a white horse would cost for the day, w/ trailer and tack (I never heard a number), he told her it was going to be his F-350, freshly washed, and she replied “That’s what I planned on, just put down a step for me in that wedding dress.”

    Plus, it didn’t rain. I’d take credit, but that means I’d have to take the blame when it does. Lovely, breezy day, and at the end all the boats out on Dillon were honking like crazy. Bubble-mix for everyone, and we blew a bubble arch for their walk out to their trusty steed.

    It sure looked and felt like a

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  24. 4dbirds said on May 16, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    Happy Anniversary Nancy.

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  25. Julie Robinson said on May 16, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Yup, it’s the marriage that’s important, not the wedding. Ditch the Brides magazines and spend your time and money on building that instead.

    My daughter just linked to this brief musical offering, for your enjoyment:
    It’s Gotta Share, The Musical.

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  26. Sherri said on May 16, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    The wedding day should not be the high point of the marriage. That’s the thing to remember when planning a wedding.

    I had an engagement ring with a small diamond, though it certainly didn’t cost 2-3 months salary. After 10 years, I took the engagement ring into a jeweler’s, and had him set the diamond into a simple gold band so that it didn’t stick out, and now that’s what I wear as a wedding ring. All seems to have worked for us; we’ve been married 23 years, and it’s better now than it was 23 years ago!

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  27. beb said on May 16, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Happy anniversary. My wife and I got married on the cheap. Service in the m-in-l’s house, discount rings and a reception at a local restaurant. And 31 years later we’re still together.

    The jazz restaurant sounded like a really nice evening.

    I’m a big fan of Carhartt since discovering that I can go to my local hardware store and pick up a pair of 54 x 30″ jeans anytime I want. I’m looking into their shirts as well but 4XL is a little harder to find. I think they get bought out before I can get to them. I also picked up some suspenders that have been getting comments. They’ve for flames running up the length. Also as construction-wear the clips are stronger than the kind sold in clothing stories and the elastic is wide and stout so these suspenders have gone months now without having to be tightened up. Good stuff– and cheaper than you find at the big and tall stores.

    I still like the Simpsons. After 20+ years they don’t always work but even weak episodes can have very funny moments.

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  28. prospero said on May 16, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    Jeff aa9mmo) it’s always best when flowers are the bulk of the cost. . Weddings can be marvelous, or they can be hellacious. You actually perform weddings? I’d consider asking if I ever did anything like that again. But, I surely think once was enough and we’re perfectly happy here. If a mayor can make it legal, surely the most corruptible form of American political animal, where’s the sanctity? And Nancy, does this mean you got married when you were barely legal? 18 + 16? Or whatever. But you have the next Tal Wickenfeld for a kid, so you guys will end up wealthy .

    Did anybody see the new edition of Rolling Stone. Best Dylan Songs and Highway 61 is no. whatever and the best covers doesn’t include Johnny Winter doing that same song. What a crock. These people are supposed to know what they’re talking about. I think Tom Thumb’s Blues and Gates of Eden and My Back Pages and Desolation Row are all better songs than Like a Rolling Stone, and that is a spetacularly great song. How do you make this list?

    This is ultimate rock ‘n’ roll, in my not humble opinion. That is how to play, and that is one astounding song. And the guy is a hulking, tattooed albino? Holy shit. And isn’t Memo from Turner Mick Jagger’s Dylan cover? And Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues is 40 something? Where do these idiots get off? Is there a better first line than
    When you’re lost in the rain in Juarez and it’s Eastertime too.” No. Simple as that. Well, “Of war and peace the truth just twists, the curfew gull it glides. Or, a screaming comes across the sky. Or,

    On my naming day when I come 12 I gone front spear and kilt a wyld boar he parbly ben
    the las wyld pig on the Bundel Downs any how there hadn’t ben none for a long time befor
    him nor I aint looking to see none agen.

    Kinda the same difference.

    Please tell me y’all have read Riddley Walker.

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  29. John G. Wallace said on May 16, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    When my wife and I first got engaged I had planned on giving her a nice ring with a diamond that was from my Great-Grandmother’s ring in a new setting. My wife’s mother – I cringe at using the term Mother in Law – who to this day is a deeply disturbed woman and now a fugitive from Allen County for being a serial animal hoarder didn’t have any faith in me. She took my wife to Sear’s at the old southtown mall in FT. Wayne, bought a $145 absolutly sorry excuse for an engagement and wedding ring set, and drove over to my house and presented me the bill.

    I paid her f’ing $145, got mad that my wife didn’t speak up for us, and to this day that’s her wedding ring and engagement ring. I had to stop wearing mine as my finger turned green and got infected. I’ve bought my wife many nice items of jewelry over the years but the ring thing still angers me, and finally embarrasses my wife.My family still talks about our wedding reception where the mother threw down paper plates, a few bags of bread and rolls, and a few pounds of cold cuts from Scotts still in the wrappers. My friends came to the rescue and brought back real food, cases of soda, and a keg.

    Her mom would pull crap like dropping off two cartons of cigarettes when my wife was trying to quit, running her ex-husband, a FT. Wayne fire chief off the road, ringing my door bell and spitting in my face, then racing to my sister in law’s house and giving her boyfriend a face full of spit also.

    We’ve been married close to 22 years, and my wife finally broke free of her Mom’s whack pack life – it took a live broadcast by WANE-TV from her mom’s lawn to convince her all my hunches were right. Some of that might explain why I couldn’t stand the former neighbors nonsense but her mom wasn’t stereotypical white trash, nice house in Aboite, owned a food brokerage and an old hotel B&B, but still batshit crazy. She always hated me for moving us out of Ft. Wayne for 18 years, but anything else would have doomed our marriage.

    Once we moved back and I was reporting for a business publication in Ft. Wayne the mother would threaten people with me, “my son in law is a reporter for XXXX and he’ll ruin you.” That certainly didn’t help my career. I’m adult enough now to understand she is mentally ill and likely always will be, and I can forgive her but not forget the things she has done.

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  30. Rana said on May 16, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    I hate diamonds, so my husband had an easy time of it. I wore a ruby ring that had belonged to my godmother as my engagement ring, and was quite happy to remove it once married – the stone caught on everything. What ring money we spent went into the actual wedding band – mine was made by this designer, and I love it.

    Anyone who thinks that wedding costs are a deal-breaker when it comes to getting married has never confronted what happens when your partner gets sick, and suddenly you’re downgraded to “visitor” rather than “family” or “spouse.” And if one has kids? Good lord, people. Go to the courthouse and pay the damn $50, already.

    As for it being “too expensive to get married” – there are a few reasons to not be married (some health insurance and benefits packages pay out less if one’s married) – but just this year our tax savings as a married couple versus filing separately were probably about a quarter of the overall cost of the wedding itself. Not bad.

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  31. prospero said on May 16, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    John G. you have to have figured this all didn’t bode well.

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  32. Rana said on May 16, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    On lost stone stories – my parents were in a car accident early in either their engagement or marriage (I don’t recall which). My father was knocked unconscious, and the diamond was knocked out of my mother’s ring, and both my parents were bundled off to the hospital while other people dealt with the wreckage (which I’ve been told included a cherry pie that the crew ended up eating). My mother sadly figured the stone was lost, but, thanks to the diligence of an older woman who lived right by the wreck site, she got it back. The woman, hearing that this young woman had lost her engagement diamond, painstakingly sifted through all of the broken glass until she found it, then tracked them down so she could return it.

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  33. nancy said on May 16, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Another great story, John, but it reminds me of one that I heard right after I got to Fort Wayne. I was working with a young black woman who was engaged to marry her college sweetheart, who was in med school. He came to visit her, and they went ring-shopping at Southtown. Without being asked anything other than what they were interested in, the (white) salesman brought out a rack of their cheapest rings and started showing them off: “This one’s good if you do manual labor, because it has less gold and won’t bend easily.” “This one’s good if you work with your hands.” “If you handle tools, you want this one.” And so on. Evidently he finally realized they were saying nothing, and said, “What sort of work do you do, anyway?”

    Her fiance replied, “Brain surgery. Or I will, eventually. I guess that’s manual labor.”

    They left without buying anything. One of those incidents of day-to-day racism you don’t even think about until you live through it.

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  34. Jolene said on May 16, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Nancy, I was with my my dad when he had a similar experience while buying jewelry as a Christmas gift for my mother. They were probably in their sixties then, and he had all the money he needed to buy whatever he wanted. He was, though, dressed in his work clothes, and the clerk apparently couldn’t imagine that anyone wearing a typical farm jacket (even a clean one!) would have the bucks to buy from the high-end stock.

    Assumptions. They’re everywhere.

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  35. Dexter said on May 16, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    Nothing in my life made me feel so poor and low like going to the jewelry store to shop for a diamond engagement ring for my first wife. I worked hard as a lab tech in a foundry but it was low paid…I recall clearing $99 for a forty hour week, $135 per week if I got some overtime.
    When I told the clerk/owner I had $300 for an engagement ring the feeling was more like hopelessness, even shame, that I didn’t have a few grand, at least, for a diamond.
    But, I wanted to get married and I had abiding hope; I was optimistic—something would break and things would get better financially, and of course it did, but then, saving $300 was a struggle, but I did it.
    I have hated rings and all that scene ever since. I refuse to buy jewelry for anyone. I always feel like it is a rich man’s game, buying that stuff. I never had a ring since my high school class ring. This is the only ring-story I will ever have, by god.

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  36. nancy said on May 16, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    And Dexter, be advised it is ALL thanks to the marketing wizards at DeBeers. By the three-months’-salary “rule” they’ve somehow drilled into skulls all over the world, I should be wearing a sizable sparkler on my finger. And yet: No.

    I just did my cop-shop runs today, and discovered a report of a jewelry theft, one of those “I wore it last in mid-April, and now it’s a month later and it’s gone” deals, which are fairly common around here. (They always finger the maid, although the more cynical me suspects adult children with gambling or drug habits.) The inventory included a two-carat diamond with an estimated value of $40K. My friend who died of AIDS gave his mother’s two-carat old-cut diamond to his long-suffering girlfriend/drinking buddy. She got married to a straight guy later; I assume she wears his ring now, and hers is either sitting in a safety-deposit box somewhere or was transmogrified to cash. I hope she got a good price. I couldn’t wear such a thing in public without worrying someone would cut my finger off to get it.

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  37. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on May 16, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    Have indeed read Riddley Walker; Prospero, I’m a cleric, if a slightly off-the-rack variety. With a valid certificate for “solemnizing marriage licenses” in the State of Ohio. Me, and anyone with a Universal Life Church printout from the back of “Rolling Stone” who’s also sent the Secretary of State $25. $10 when I got here . . . one of these days, they’ll realize they can charge an annual fee instead of lifetime clearance.

    Our rings were made by a guy in a downtown upstairs apartment cum workshop with a tank of turtles in the living room/waiting area. He had a magenta mohawk and was mainly interested in never making the same thing twice (Ralph’s Rings, Lafayette, IN). Those mall jewelry stores — think it through, kids. A third of the place boarded up, a Taco Bell and a Victoria’s Secret, a dozen cr4p shops, and THREE beautifully lit, always well-staffed, sprawling jewelry stores.

    Think there’s some markup there?

    EDIT: ah, the power of these internets. Turns out Ralph is upscaling, a bit, but he’s earned it:

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  38. basset said on May 16, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Don’t even know why I bought a high school ring; it may be up in the attic someplace, right next to a yearbook with nothing written in it.

    Engagement rings… my parents did it the easy way, he gave her some money and she went to a pawnshop with her mother and picked one out. They got a wedding ring but he never wore it, they were married just short of fifty years.

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  39. mary o said on May 16, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    I agree with getting rid of engagement rings. We will hit our 19 year anniversary in June. When we decided to get married, I wanted no engagement ring — we simply couldn’t afford it. And when we got married, I used my late mother’s wedding ring, which is a reset of her wedding and engagement rings into a simple three-tiered band of diamonds. We bought a simple silver Western-style ring for my husband in Virginia City the day before the ceremony.

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  40. prospero said on May 16, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Dexter, take it easy, a bridegroom brings himself to a marriage. Rana, and that filing status is fair how?

    And did anybody know Nena put out an updated vid version of 99 Luftballons? Now she’s an old lady, but Nena rocks. And the song should be everybody’s national anthem, still gorgeous, and still smarter than most heads of state. I’d vote for her, in an instant. Seriously, with all the Americans worried about Iran and nukes, shouldn’t they consider Dimona and how Israel runs spies in the USA and teamed up with the DeKlerks and AQ Khan to present the biggest nuke threat on the face of the earth, not named Newt.? Am I the only person around that believes the current Israeli regime is nuts enough to pull some bullshit like this?

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  41. moe99 said on May 16, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    There was an article in the Atlantic 25 or more years ago, titled: Have you Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond?” Short answer, you won’t get paid anywhere close to what you paid for it retail.

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  42. Rana said on May 16, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    I ain’t saying it’s fair, prospero, but it is what it is. Given that we may both be unemployed next year, I’m happy to take whatever small benefits the feds will give me. Besides, the benefit was mostly to him – I’ve been making poverty wages for years now, filing separately, so this is the first year I didn’t get a refund.

    And I’ll keep fighting for all consenting adults to be allowed to marry whichever other consenting adult(s) they want. Hell, I’d have no problem with non-sexual partners – say, siblings or friends – being able to sign a domestic contract declaring them partners in a household, and getting the same benefits. Making a legal commitment to support someone – and be supported by them – shouldn’t be limited by numbers or genitals or sexual orientation or religious status, but rather by whether all parties have the legal standing to sign binding contracts.

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  43. Connie said on May 16, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    Jeff Borden, Erik Prince is not only from Michigan, He’s from my home town and our fathers lived together at Dutch House while grad students at U of M.

    My half carat was $400 in 1978 at an odd custom jewelry place in Ann Arbor. Yup, soon to be 33 years.

    Pros, of course I’ve read Riddley Walker.

    I spent much of my day at the Metro Detroit Book and Author Society Luncheon. The speakers were Sebastian Junger, you know him best for The Perfect Storm, though he thinks of himself as a war reporter, Diane Ackerman, best known for the Zookeeper’s Wife, Erik Larson, author of Devil in the White City and his new “In the Garden of Beasts,” Karl Marlantes, author of last year’s bestselling VietNam novel “Matterhorn”, John Gallagher, author of “Reimagining Detroit.” I spent $40 on two books and stood in long lines for autographs from Larson and Marlantes. Food was crappy banquet chicken, speeches were great.

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  44. John G. Wallace said on May 16, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    Didn’t bode well was too polite a term.

    When I first met Katie her mother was mostly balanced, seemed affluent, Katie’s stepfather the Fire Chief was a great guy, and I chalked the mother up as eccentric but OK. They were pretty kind to me at first. My wife and I have always pondered if we missed some sign or there was an incident that set her off. By the time her husband was out of the picture she was off the wall – when we got married they were estranged.

    It’s now a circle of codependency with Katie’s mom, her sister, our niece now age 27,
    our nieces’s 6 year old daughter, and an allegedly close friend’s daughter who they basically raised. I know the girl’s parents so it’s not a Jaycee Dugard thing but we both think Katie’s mom had some dirt on them and took the child along for the ride. There are no men in the picture… the black widow spider runs them all off. They have ruined all the adult’s credit – houses lost to foreclosure, car loans leading to the the repo man paying a visit. My sister in law is the main provider – she works for a Federal goverment branch that HINT comes to most of our homes 6 days a week.

    We once paid them a surprise visit from NJ. We were in town for a friend’s family function and went to one of their old houses. The front doorknow had fallen off years ago, our neice (then 13) wasn’t allowed to let us in but we entered anyway, it reeked of animal and human debris, old food boxes, etc. Most disturbing, someone had dropped an open can of wood shellac with a brush on the floor obviously months ago, it was like bad modern art, hardened and permanently stuck to the floor, with the brush still. I can’t imagine that none of them said, hey, I should pick this up.

    When they want something from me they kiss my ass and it took me a long time to say no – end of sentence. I sold them a nice Ford Explorer when we returned to the Fort in 2006, mostly for contact with our own friends and a much lower cost of living. They stopped making payments so under the written agreement I hunted it down and repo’d the car myself. It was clear to me they were living in the car even with a nice house off of West State Street that we never were allowed inside. I found a fuzzy green half eaten birthday cake, a well used cat litter box, and hundreds of scratch off tickets. They tried to claim they had $900 in the car but I made my wife and daughter witness the repo and clean out. At best there was less than $2.00 in coins.

    We started to suspect they were hoarding animals at the hosue and couldn’t live there anymore. We got sporadic reports of people seeing them in public -smelling like cat piss, and we knew they were sleeping at a friend’s house. The “wrecking crew,” as we both call them came to our daughter’s HS graduation party stinking of animal piss and feces, and brought their friend whose floor they were living on and her family as uninvited guests. I took them aside and told them it was disgusting and disrespectful and their friends who enabled them to be homeless homeowners were not welcome – I got a big F you as they rolled out en masse. By now you all must know I have a way with people, I’m a people person, dammit (office space reference).

    We used to joke to each other whenever we heard about an animal hoarder on the news, “What did M do now?” So one day in 2008 we hear WANE tease the lead story, of a huge animal hoarding raid, coming up at 6.” My wife started the normal comment, then yelled, “S***, that is my mom’s house!”

    It is still considered one of the worst such incidents in the city’s history. The lead animal investigator for FW Animal Care and Control thought of M as his white whale, she was always a hop, skip, and jump ahead of them, until that day. They had numerous dogs, including the Cane Corso terriers which make pitbulls seem like Lassie – they would unbolt the basement door, toss down food, and slam the door before the dogs got out. Cats by the dozen, birds, reptiles, a hedgehog, and best of all a huge land tortise.

    I went to Animal Care and Control, told the investigators everything I knew, Child welfare was notified about our great-neice, and in the end they scooted outside city limits and moved in with worthless associates on Old Decatur Road. I begged them to deny them the return of any of the animals, but the law was on their side. FWACC has always been a s***hole with one of the worst adoption rates in the state, and they ended up giving them 11 animals back. It’s doggie Dachau. And both my wife and I are active volunteers with pet shelters to this day – we are fostering 5 puppies now for two more weeks. I gave almost 1000 hours of my time to a Katrina shelter in NJ. So I know they could do better.

    In the end my sister in law got all the charges as the homeowner, the investigator said he had no doubt her mother was the ringleader, and described her as a Svengalli type. But S.I.L. took the rap – it’s not like they were going to pay the fines anyway.
    My own mother thought I had to be exagerating about M, but after this a lot of people were sorry they didn’t trust my instincts.

    The whole crew including their enablers moved to Witchita KS when the facility my sister in law worked at was closed. I expect they are back to hoarding but really no longer care. We did hear from someone they had a miniature horse in their house. Next time you think your in-laws are the worst – trust me, they aren’t.

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  45. paddyo' said on May 16, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    Wow, John. Speechless, but for one aside: What a tale to tell under the comments of an original blogpost titled, “No fleas here”!

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  46. coozledad said on May 16, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    Sheesh, John. I thought we were bordering on white-trash zoo here until I read that. We don’t keep cats indoors, but only because they would almost certainly disembowel the incredibly privileged, free-flying (and shitting) cockatiel.
    I feel comfortable assuming you wouldn’t be interested in helping me unload a senescent Vietnamese pot-bellied pig on your relatives.


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  47. John G. Wallace said on May 16, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    My wife and I both love animals but can put the brakes on. We have one cat, three dogs, a red cheek conure, and two fish tanks. The fostering thing is a good solution, although this is the first time we are doing that here. Get the cuteness of 5 week old puppies with a guarantee that they aren’t here to stay and will all get good homes.
    When we lived out in the country in NJ we kept about a dozen hens, two bantam chickens from a shelter, and two goats, but the goats were skilled escape artists who ALWAYS headed to our neighbor’s home to eat her flowers and never had any interest in our flowers. We also had two ducks with the funny crested tops that my sister named George Washington and George Washington Carver. We know our limits.
    The potbellied pigs can’t tolerate life around dogs so we never went down that route.

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  48. coozledad said on May 16, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    Our dogs used to view the potbellied pig as a kind of play-dough fun factory. They’d eat his feces as he walked, which helpfully estranged some of our visitors. They did chew his ears up on occasion, but the motherfucker deserved it. They’re a human on four legs.

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  49. Deborah said on May 16, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    I found out today where I’ll be staying in Detroit for my business trip. It sounds pretty cheesy to me, the Greektown Casino Hotel. Arriving late tomorrow night, up early for a meeting and an all day research quest at the client’s place of business. Back to Chicago weds night. Ugh, I hate trips like that. Then Thurs morning my husband and I leave for NC to visit his mother, who turned 93 last month. Not looking forward to this coming week. I love my MIL but I have bookending business trips around the visit because when I get back I immediately have to go to Minneapolis again, for another day trip. Exhausting.

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  50. nancy said on May 16, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    Deborah, if you have to be downtown, you could do worse than the casino hotel. However, I hope you have a higher floor, if it puts more space between you and the rabble below. You’ll be right on the single busiest block in the downtown area. (And that’s all it is. A single block.) If you were here longer, I’d come down and have a drink with you.

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  51. Deborah said on May 16, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    I was thinking about how I could work it out to have a drink with you too Nancy. I would have loved meeting you in person. This is the first meeting in Detroit for this project so I’m hoping there will be more opportunities to do that down the road.

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  52. Crazycatlady said on May 16, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    Beb and I didn’t have money for an engagement ring and it honestly never bothered me. We got our wedding rings on Clearance at a jewelry store, because the woman’s band was bigger than the mans band. My chubby finger fit the man’s band and the woman’s fit Brian’s. We wear them to this day. 32 years later, I have several anniversary rings. I think there are lots of women who don’t mind no engagement ring, or even a nice silver ‘promise’ ring. Unless I just totally weird.

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  53. coozledad said on May 17, 2011 at 7:30 am

    Arnold got caught with his dick in the maid.,0,4552508.story

    Maybe he IS Republican presidential material (Boehner’s been working on the whole citizenship thing. Deutschland’s white, after all).

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  54. LAMary said on May 17, 2011 at 9:40 am

    I don’t know all that many women in the film business, but nearly every woman I know who has had to work with Arnold has a story. Not cute flirtation. Nasty groping coupled with threats about getting them fired. Demands for oral sex not completely out of sight of the rest of the crew. A lot of women were being paid to keep quiet, not directly by Arnold, but through the publishing company Joe Weider owns that publishes body building magazines. The former gov is a complete pig.

    Oh, but he isn’t a Deutsche pig. He’s an Austrian pig.

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  55. ROGirl said on May 17, 2011 at 9:48 am

    Sounds like le cochon francais, M. Strauss-Kahn.

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  56. coozledad said on May 17, 2011 at 10:05 am

    You’ve got to wonder if a lot of his behavior was caused by steroid use. But if all that groping was just the death rattle of his dime-sized nuts, why did the damn things still function?

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